How to Deal with an Athlete on Steroids

What can you do if a male athlete is using steriods?

Know the signs

Remember that young men go through great physical changes during their teenage years. So don’t immediately assume the worst if you notice some of the symptoms described below:

  • Swollen or puffy face: This is one of the most common side-effects and is caused by excessive water retention. A user’s face often becomes swollen and tight, particularly around the eyes and cheeks.
  • Severe acne: steroids can cause acne, especially on the back, shoulders and chest, or make existing acne problems much worse.
  • Rapid weight gain: Most users gain 3.5 to 9 kg (8 to 20 lbs) on the first 6 to 8 week cycle.
  • Personality changes: Increased aggression, mood swings, irritability and frustration are common among steroid users.
  • Jaundice: The user’s eyes and skin may become yellow.
  • Premature hair loss: Certain steroids can cause hair loss or hair thinning
  • Obsession: Users may be obsessed with their image, their body, and the type and amount of food they eat.

Understand that the pressures to get “the look” are real

As a parent, teacher or someone else who cares, you’ll find that it helps to understand the pressures that lead young men to want a certain look. One of the messages young men get from today’s popular culture is straightforward: Having a “cut” body is cool. Although we may see this message as unrealistic, many young men do not. And if tens of thousands of young men are willing to risk their health to get the rewards associated with this "ideal" body, it makes sense for us to take the issue seriously.

If you aren’t familiar with the lifestyle being promoted to young men, take time to find out about them:

  • Look at the TV shows they watch
  • Leaf through their magazines and look at some of the ads
  • Watch a few music videos

You’ll be in a better position to talk about what’s realistic and what isn’t.

Be informed and clear about your position

During their teenage years, young men begin to assert their independence as a sign that you are no longer needed in their lives. In fact, the decision to use steroids may be one of those times they value your input. That’s why you have to be informed. If a young man turns to you for advice a coach you should be aware of the motivations, the risks and the consequences. Young men are more likely to talk freely with you if they feel that you know what you’re talking about. Then you’ll be in a better position to correct false information about steroid use.

Part of informing yourself means knowing where you stand on issues. If you’re concerned that a young man you know may be using steroids:

  • Take the time to figure out your position, your concerns and your objections, and then share them with him.
  • Remember that while it’s important for you to listen to him, it’s also important for him to hear what you think

Encourage the healthy pursuit of goals

The desire to exercise and get fit is a healthy one. But for some young men, this desire may turn into an unhealthy obsession with a particular body image. Getting “hooked on the look” can lead to dangerous behaviours, such as steroid use. That’s why it it’s important to encourage young men to get involved in sports and activities that help them to feel good about themselves.

For example, if a young man you know is interested in weight training, let him know that you think getting in shape is great. Although it will probably take some time before he gets the results that he wants, tell him that part of the satisfaction comes from setting goals and achieving them. He’ll feel good when he sees the muscles he’s built. He’ll feel better knowing that he built his body naturally, through hard work, without the use of steroids.

Help young men feel good about themselves

Appearance is very important to young men. When they feel comfortable with the way they look, they feel better about themselves and more accepted by their peers. But some young men are dissatisfied with the look and shape of their bodies. These young men may turn to steroids.

Here are some of the things you can do to help a young man feel better about himself and avoid the use of steroids:

  • Reinforce positive feelings he has about himself and about decisions he’s made.
  • Compliment him on how good he looks but on other things, too: his talents and abilities, his intelligence, his sense of humour.
  • If he is working out naturally, tell him you’re impressed with his results.

By supporting what’s important to him, you will help build his self-confidence.

Another crucial part of helping a young man to feel good about himself is to put the issue into perspective. Ask him if having a good body is the only way to feel admired or respected. What does he think his friends admire in him? What are some of the things you admire in him? By helping a young man see some of his other good qualities, you can help reduce the importance he places on the way he looks.